courtesy HGTV Ben and Erin Napier
Erin Napier and her husband Ben have devoted more than a decade to bringing life back to their hometown of Laurel, Mississippi.
And their work recently found the HGTV couple in the company of Dolly Parton, Stacey Abrams and Tom Brady on Fortune's 2021 list of the "World's 50 Greatest Leaders" for their ongoing work renovating houses, growing businesses and generally reviving Laurel — all of which is documented on their hit series Home Town.
"Every person on earth has a history. And that's what home is," Erin, 35, told Fortune. "It doesn't matter what the whole world thinks about your home; it matters that your home is the place that's the most personal and the most welcoming place on earth to you."
Fortune noted that in 2010, 70% of the homes in Laurel were valued at under $100,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The most recent Zillow report shows that the city's average home value now sits at $100,385.
HGTV Ben and Erin Napier
"If no one tells the story of Laurel, then no one hears the story," Erin said. "And so, I'd started a daily journal, like a blog, about what it was like for us renovating a loft in downtown where no one lived; it was a ghost town. And then you tell the story of what you know to be true, the goodness of it, and then you make other people believe that it could be possible for them too, and then they want to be a part of it."
Erin and Ben, 37, met while attending Ole Miss, and they tied the knot in 2008, before moving to Laurel. After blogging about their renovation and appearing in the magazine Southern Weddings, they caught HGTV's attention and began remodeling their neighbors' homes on Home Town in 2016.
Their show is now in its fifth season and two spin-offs have recently premiered: Home Town: Ben's Workshop and Home Town Takeover. The latter sees the couple bringing their skills to Wetumpka, Alabama, another town that had experienced hard times and was in need of a boost.
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Erin and Ben are parents to 3-year-old daughter Helen, and she is pregnant with their second baby, another girl who's due next month. "We're very, very blessed," the proud mom recently told PEOPLE. "I think it's really wonderful to have a sibling if it's possible."